Living paycheck to paycheck is no joke. When we think of being broke, our thoughts immediately turn to large house payments and car notes. Maybe even taking too many trips or big toys like boats and ATV’s make us think of being broke or in debt. Those things definitely can keep you in payments and debt. But here are some less obvious things that may keep you in the vicious paycheck to paycheck cycle.
Gas Stations/Convenience Stores
How many times do we run in grab a bottle of water, pack of gum, and a bag of almonds (Cheetos, almonds, tomato, tomato)? I know I am guilty of this one. These quick $5 trips can add up.
The best way to combat this is to be prepared. Keep a cooler with bottles of water in the back for trips. This one would be perfect for the trunk of the car or back of the van. Buy snacks in bulk and keep a “car bag” ready to go when you know you have a busy week ahead in the car.
Just from looking back over my finances over the past few years, I found several of these that popped up. Netflix, ABC Mouse, Hello Fresh, Thrive Market, Amazon Prime, Apple Music, a gym, a spray tan club membership, just to name a few. I am not bashing these companies, because I obviously liked something about them to pay them. They can just drain your finances if you have multiple subscriptions. Also, when paying down debt, it helps to cut any costs that aren’t necessities. Music and spray tans definitely don’t qualify as that, even if I would really like to classify them as such.
Other things like Sam’s Club or Costco Memberships can also hurt our bottom line. While these stores are fascinating and have great products, overbuying or buying in bulk is not always to best option for everything we need when we are on a strict budget.
Always have to have the latest IPhone? MacBook Pro? I see you there trying to skipping over this section….
Keeping up with the Jones’ of the gadget world will keep you living paycheck to paycheck. Do you really want the newest phone more than being debt free? A company I keep reading rave reviews about is Republic Wireless. Their cell phone plans start as cheap as $10/month. I don’t have service with them as we live in a VERY rural area where they don’t have coverage yet, but I am checking constantly to see when they will update it!
Also, be sure to check with your employer. My company provides a 20% discount off the base rate as an employee benefit for Verizon and AT&T customers. Make sure to know your perks!
Besides phones or computers, evaluate your internet/cable packages. Many companies just continue to increase rates yearly if the consumer doesn’t do anything to stop it. Simply calling to ask for a reduced rate or package sometimes can decrease your bill.
Many people get by with no cable or satellite by using Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Fire. These can be an excellent choice for some when they are ready to cut cable costs.
Whether it is lunches with your co-workers, eating with your friends every Saturday night at a local restaurant or grabbing a pizza after baseball practice every Thursday, eating out can add up.
The key to overcoming the eating out beast is to have a plan. Plan lunches for the week on Sunday, and if your colleagues eat out every day, plan one or two days a week to go with them. Nights that you know practice is scheduled for, plan a crockpot meal to be ready when you come in, or plan that night to be a leftover night. Even frozen pizza and fruit is cheaper than buying it out.
If a standing date is the norm for you and a group of friends, try to plan activities that don’t cost. Suggest having a picnic at a local park, plan a game night in where everyone brings a favorite dish, or have a theme night at another friend’s home. Mexican can be just as fun with margaritas and a taco bar around a friend’s pool. Think outside the box.
If you think you’ll have trouble going “cold turkey” on eating out or lunches with colleagues, set small goals for the next week and write them down. Post them on the refrigerator where they are visible. If you typically eat out daily, your goal for the first week might be to only eat out 3 times this week. Baby steps are the key to long term success.
Ever spent a lot of money just because you ran into Target for a “few” things, but came out with $100 worth of stuff in 2 bags? We’ve all been there.
Sometimes we shop out of necessity, and sometimes we shop out of boredom. I remember during my maternity leave with my first child, trips to Target were my sanity. He cried A LOT, and the car ride over to Target seemed to soothe him. Maybe I wasn’t exactly bored, but I was using shopping for entertainment. No judgement, new moms. Do what you gotta do to get by!
Another time I can recall when I would spend on unnecessary things was in graduate school. I had moved to a one bedroom apartment in a town where I knew literally ONE person. Isolation is not a fun thing for someone who was used to being super involved in college life. In undergraduate, sorority life and working kept me closely surrounded by lots of friends and co-workers. I also lived with my best friends throughout college, so graduate school was a complete shock to my normally social self. Hence, the boredom shopping happened.
My advice for someone who is spending money out of boredom is to find a hobby. If stores are where you like to be, learn how to coupon. Find a free exercise class. Join a church group. Do something besides spending money.
A budget is something that many people live without. It’s easy to have no idea where your money is going when you don’t write it all down on paper. A budget is simply telling your money where to go, instead of you wondering where it went. For GREAT budgeting tips, read here. Dave Ramsey is full of great financial wisdom, and we are currently following his plan to cut our debt.
Without a budget, things like birthday parties, trips to the dentist, and quarterly car insurance sneak up on you. I know I have been in situations where I had to scramble and find money from selling something or borrowing from savings to pay for things. Trust me, you don’t want to be in that boat. A budget is the key to not living paycheck to paycheck. Typically, people realize they actually have more money that they thought when they start to budget.
Are you living in a bit of clutter? Do you lose things frequently? Often times, when people are truly unorganized, this can lead to spending on something you already have. One great resource for having a more organized home is this book. I love Karen Ehman’s books, this was actually the first I read. In the book, she breaks down every area of your home and life and helps you get organized. It’s an easy read, and more like a study than an actual book.
Keeping a running pantry and freezer inventory can also help keep us from buying something we already have or spending more on un-necessary things. Check out these free printables here to keep you on track.
Disorganization with finances can be quite costly. Interest charges and late fees will pile up if you aren’t diligent with opening statements when they arrive, or checking online statements frequently. Setting bills up on online bill pay is a great resource, how-ever this past year, I noticed I had a late fee from one bill company. Turns out, the bank had pushed the bill back to a Monday, when the due date fell on Saturday. What this experience taught me was to stay on top of online bill pay and scrutinize every statement!
While there are probably many, many more items that lead us to staying in debt and broke, these are a few that stand out. Do you struggle with any of these or others? I’d love to hear!